B2B payments part 2: Accepting online payments

In part one of this series, we gave an overview of B2B payments in general. In this post, we’ll take a more in-depth look at online payments specifically, and what to consider when it comes to implementing or expanding your digital payment capabilities.

  1. What is online payment processing?
  2. Online payment methods
  3. The benefits of accepting payments online
  4. How to accept online payments safely and securely
  5. Fees and costs associated with online payments
  6. Top online payment platforms for businesses

What is online payment processing?

Online payment processing is any form of payment that uses the internet to facilitate an exchange of money. Online payment platforms facilitate ecommerce, in-store, and order fulfillment transactions for all kinds of sellers, including B2C, B2B, and C2C.

Online payment processing has been around for decades, but in recent years, we’ve seen new innovations and platforms to make paying for goods and services easier, faster, and cheaper.

Online payment methods

These days, nearly all payment methods include one or more online components. The primary online payment processing options include:

  • Credit cards, debit cards, and lines of credit
  • Checks — even paper checks are often processed electronically
  • Wire transfers directly between business bank accounts
  • Electronic bank transfers that go through an automated clearing house (ACH)
  • Online payment platforms
  • Mobile payment platforms
  • Email invoicing
  • Recurring billing
  • Cryptocurrency

Most businesses will use multiple forms of online payment processing, but few will offer every option. There are pros and cons to each, and they vary based on the needs of your business and your customers.

The benefits of accepting payments online

Like any business decision, implementing an online payment system has to make sense for your bottom line. However, customers expect transactions to be immediate and easy; relying solely on offline payment methods is neither. Here are some other things to consider, if you’re on the fence about online payments.

  • Efficiency
    Customers may be willing to take time to decide on a purchase, but challenges in the payment process are likely to send them to your competitors. In a world of widespread ecommerce, people expect to make payments quickly. Dealing with cash can be cumbersome or downright impossible, while manually processing checks creates a delay in reconciling balance sheets.
  • Credibility
    Customers want to know that when they deliver a payment, it will be applied in a timely, accurate manner. By using trusted, recognized platforms for online payments, you can help provide peace of mind that your customers’ money will be handled safely and responsibly.
  • Security
    Online platforms provide a layer of control over the payments you receive. You can set parameters and pause or reject payments that raise red flags. You can also verify the legitimacy of payments and even recall them, if warranted.
  • History
    Online payments provide a record of payments you accept, when you accepted them, and who they’re from. You can better manage subscription services, recurring payments, customer profiles, and other activities. You can also use historical data to gain insight into transaction and purchase trends for individual customers or your business as a whole.

How to accept online payments safely and securely

As with most things related to money and business, you’ll need to ensure your online payment system is trustworthy and secure.

Security is particularly important if you’re building your own online payment system. The last thing you want is the financial liability, lost trust, or bad press that comes with compromising the payment details of your customer base.

Whether you build your own system or go with a third-party payment platform, make sure your system has advanced security features, which may include:

  • Encrypted data
    Look for SSL (secure sockets layer) or TLS (transport layer security) protocols, which prevent bad actors from accessing payment data while it’s in transit.
  • CVV check
    If you accept credit cards remotely or online, be certain you require the card verification value (CVV) — those three or four digits printed on the card. It ensures the person making the payment has the physical card with them.
  • Fraud monitoring
    You or your payment vendor can set rules and triggers based on common fraud activity. When detected, your system can either reject the transaction or require manual approval.
  • Tokenization
    Tokenization is a form of data protection. It de-identifies transaction information for transit, using a random string of numbers that can be decrypted by the intended recipient using a valid key.

Fees and costs associated with online payments

Online payments aren’t free. Most third-party providers have upfront costs and ongoing fees, based on the number or value of transactions. Even a custom-built system will incur transaction fees from banks, clearing houses, credit cards companies, or processors.

Transaction fees consist of:

Interchange fees, a portion of each sale that goes to the credit card issuer (usually a financial institution)

Assessment fees, collected by the credit card association, like Visa or Mastercard

Processor fee, also called an acquirer fee, paid to the transaction processor, e.g. PayPal, Square, BitPay

Merchant fee, which goes to your bank

Pricing structures vary, but are usually based on a percentage of the sale plus a charge per transaction. It may be possible to pass some or all of the cost on to customers, but be aware that doing so can impact customer satisfaction. Surcharge taxability varies by state, and in some states, credit card surcharges are illegal.

Additional fees may be charged based on platform usage and may include:

  • Setup fees
  • Chargeback fees
  • Statement fees
  • Gateway fees
  • Monthly minimum fees

Top online payment platforms for businesses

If you’re considering a third-party payment platform, choose a well-vetted, highly reputable company. Here are a few of the more popular services:

  • PayPal
  • Square
  • Helcim
  • Google Pay
  • Apple Pay

Conclusion

Online payments can make it easier for customers to buy from you. However, you’ll need to assess the right kind of payment options for your business, factor in the cost of setting up platforms and processing payments, and make sure you’re properly safeguarding your customers’ payment information.

This is the second in a three-part series on B2B payments.

Read the first installment, B2B payments part 1: Overview of B2B payments solutions.
Check back in with the Avalara Tax Desk for B2B payments part 3: Your guide to ecommerce payment processing.

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